... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Monday, May 27, 2013

One Month Post-Injury: Almost There!

As of today it has been exactly one month since I made a complete fool out of myself and broke my foot, and I am very pleased to say that it's showing very definite progress each day! The wobbly, unstable feeling is almost completely gone and I can actually hold my weight on that foot alone. (The doctor and nurse practitioner said that it was alright to put weight on it as long as I don't roll through the foot). The bruising and swelling are almost gone, and the top of the foot is no longer sensitive to the touch. Too much pressure, bumping into it, or any kind of flexion still hurts and my ankle is still tight and a little painful, but overall I am seeing improvement in leaps and bounds.

I am also happy and a little confused to report that my weight has gone back down to where it was before the injury. Logically I know that what happened is that I gained 5 pounds of fat, then lost 5 pounds of muscle (very, very depressing) but for the sake of my sanity I am allowing myself to delight in the delusion that I am not losing my hard-won conditioning. My right calf muscle is pathetically small and lame-looking after being completely relieved of duty for a month and even my thigh is looking a little gaunt. I can't wait to start working out again! I have so many plans...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Injury Update and Log

I have to apologize for the lag between posts, but there has been very little triathlon-related material to write about since I am not allowed to do any kind of exercise. But since I searched the internet high and low for information on trying to figure out what was wrong with my foot, to little avail, here is some information about my injury. Maybe it will help someone else who is wondering why the bottom of their foot is suddenly a gigantic bruise. This may also be useful to anyone looking for information about ankle sprains, broken metatarsals, acute fractures, et cetera. I know these details aren't the most exciting thing in the world, but since this is a training blog, I think they're relevant.

April 29th: I suffered two acute metatarsal fractures (3rd and 4th) exactly three weeks ago. I also sprained both my ankle and medial ligament. Symptoms-wise, the injury started with immense amounts of pain. I am a pretty tough cookie, but it was bad enough that I had to lay on the floor breathing deeply for over an hour to keep myself from passing out or throwing up. Cold sweats, shivering, the whole shebang. Really fun. This initial, intense pain lasted for about two hours, then was followed by another three hours of moderate to severe pain. This pain was indiscriminately distributed all over the foot, and it also felt like I was having severe cramps on the underside of my arch. After that it trailed off to minor pain which lasted the rest of the day. Any movement of the foot produced waves of discomfort, although the toes could be manually moved without pain. There was minor swelling over the second, third, fourth, and fifth metatarsals almost immediately, but notably no immediate bruising. Once the initial pain toned down a little, it seemed to be focused on the third-fifth metatarsal area and underneath my arch. The outside of the ankle was tender as well.

April 28th: It took a day for the swelling to really take effect. My foot puffed up like a puffer fish. The worst of it was over the metatarsals but I couldn't see any of my foot's shape. There was still no bruising.

April 30th: The bruise on the arch had turned dark purple. Oddly enough, though, the area wasn't sore to the touch. I went to the local doctor, who after looking at x-rays gave me the incorrect diagnosis that there were no fractures. Luckily, the radiologist disagreed and referred me to an orthopedist.

May 2nd: A bruise started to form underneath my arch and spread all over the arch area by the end of the day. The swollen area over the metatarsals turned a bluish-green color. Overall the foot felt oddly unstable and even trying to shower or bathe was difficult.

May 5th: The swelling was the same but bruises had appeared on the outside of the foot and my toes were also turning black and blue. The arch bruise just kept getting bigger and darker. I found out that submerging the foot in warm/hot water felt amazing and relieved some of the pain and instability.

May 6th: I was glad to get to the orthopedist when I did because things seemed to be getting worse rather than better. I was correctly diagnosed and put into the walking boot. At that point I still had to use the crutches to walk, taking a light step on the foot with the boot. Any more weight than that was too painful. The pain was located in the ankle and, not surprisingly, on the top of the foot between the arch and toes.

May 7th: I swam in the ocean! As I mentioned in my last post, I swam using only my arms, abstaining completely from kicking. It wasn't pretty, but it felt amazing to be in the water, able to move freely.

May 8th: I could finally walk in the boot without using crutches, but in a lurching, slow gait. I had to keep the affected leg in front of my body at all times, with no weight on the front of the foot. The swelling over the metatarsals was still really bad and the boot hurt if it was too tight. As instructed, I am taking it off for about half an hour each day during which time I use my hands to move my ankle around to keep it from getting stiff. I flex it as far as possible -- right now this motion is pretty good, and the stretch on my achilles feels great. Then I point my foot from the ankle without pointing my toes -- this one is harder. It has some tenderness in the achilles and arch and I don't have full range of motion. Then I sickle my ankle inward, which shows tenderness in the ankle but somehow still feels good. Since I'm a dancer, I am trying really hard to maintain my ankle's flexibility.

Weird, horrible-looking arch bruise
May 10th: Walking is easier. I still have to walk slowly and my gait is definitely affected, but I can take almost full steps in the boot. The swelling has gone down significantly and is localized over the metatarsals with just a hint around the ankle and medial ligament. The bruising on the side of my foot has gone away but the bruise under the arch just gets darker and darker. My toes are also still bruised. The only places that are sore to the touch are around the metatarsals and toes. Massaging around the ankle also results in a little tenderness.

May 14th: Everything is pretty much the same... I have been doing ab and arm workouts but obviously my legs are at the mercy of this injury. There is significant muscle wasting evident in my right leg. My right calf muscle is noticeably smaller than my left and it feels strange and squishy when I massage it, not the firm musculature I'm used to. Frustrating, but not much I can do about it.

May 17th: My foot is feeling increasingly stable. Not nearly to the point where I would feel comfortable walking on it or anything like that, but when I have the boot off it feels slightly better. Any movement, however, still results in the odd tight, unstable feeling in the metatarsal area. The ankle tenderness is improving.

May 19th: The ankle pain comes and goes. Sometimes it feels sensitive and others normal. I'm still doing the flexibility exercises, and the ankle swelling has almost disappeared. The only swelling now is over the top of the foot near the toes. The bruising on the arch is slowly shrinking, although the color is the same. The toes are still bruised. There are still some strange symptoms as well. For example, if I try to bend my big toe with a flexed foot, it shakes and won't cooperate. I'm not sure where that is coming from.

Overall, I am seeing some improvements now and that is encouraging. I'm going back for a follow up appointment in a week and a half, just to ensure that the bones are healing correctly. I am fighting with weight gain big time... I have gained a pretty solid 5-6 pounds. I considered controlling it with my diet, but decided that not being able to exercise is depressing enough. Add to it not being able to eat and that's just sad. I am making an effort to fill the fridge with fruits and veggies, but whatever gets added on will just have to be taken care of when I get back to training. Given how I lost weight training for the sprint-length triathlon, I'm not too worried about losing it again training for an Olympic length.

On a happy note, this injury has landed me in an amazing job. Because I couldn't start my job as a cocktail server, I had to look elsewhere. On the 14th I started my new job at a neurology office, starting as a receptionist, then being trained as an EEG technician. This is much more relevant to my interests and schooling and something I had looked at getting certified for in the past, but the training is very expensive. With this new job, I will get the training for free! Very exciting, and whenever I am feeling frustrated with the foot situation I remind myself that everything happens for a reason, and in this case it helped me find a wonderful new job!

As soon as a start a rehab program I will be posting it on here and I'll keep the blog updated with symptoms and new developments.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Happiest Bad News

Well, it's official: I broke my foot. According to the orthopedist, I have two broken metatarsals (3rd and 4th) as well as a sprained ankle. Oddly enough, this could not have been better news. There is no displacement in the bones, no midfoot or arch involvement, and thus no surgery necessary.

I have been saddled up with this nifty boot (and I thought that my EarBandits were fashionable!) and have been learning to hobble around on it with some level of grace. Okay, there is no grace involved. I am just relieved to be able to move -- even if only very slowly -- without crutches, which are much more cumbersome than I had previously imagined.

Problems with crutches:
1. Carrying anything liquid is freaking impossible. I drink a lot of tea, and I burned my hand and completely soaked my floor a lot of times trying to make it from the kitchen to the couch.
2. Your underarms and hands get really sore. Everyone makes it look like bearing all of your weight on your hands and underarms is easy. It is not. Hauling my ass around like that left bruises that made each step painful and unpleasant. I think this is supposed to be a secret, because I've never heard anyone talk about it. I guess I'm breaking the crutch code.
3. Cooking becomes the most frustrating project ever. Trying to balance on one leg and reach far enough to grab things from the fridge, stove, and sink quickly deteriorates into knocking over crutches, spilling and dropping food, and swearing at the top of your lungs.
4. Everyday housework is just a joke. Vacuuming, sweeping, and scrubbing the bathroom result in dripping sweat and spasming calf muscles. Leaning over repeatedly makes your hamstrings feel like they are burning up and you will drop whatever it is you need at least five times. Like cooking, it quickly deteriorates into swearing and throwing things. Doing laundry, however, tops it all. After trying to hold all of the clothes and the measuring cup of detergent in my arms while hopping on one foot outside to the washer, I ended up sitting on the ground crying in frustration, surrounded by a trail of wayward socks and covered in powdered detergent. After this initial failure I managed to carry our bedsheets outside by wrapping them around my shoulders, neck, and head. Not chic, but it worked.

For these reasons, I love my boot. I can't take full steps by any means and it takes me about a year to walk from one end of our tiny house to the other, but I can use my hands if I need them. Talk about luxury. My foot is fully immobilized which had made it much less painful.

I was told that I will have to wear the boot for about 5 weeks (6 weeks healing time total) after which I will start doing rehab. I am allowed to bike in the boot whenever I feel comfortable. I managed to swim in the ocean for the first time yesterday -- not necessarily doctor-kosher but I made absolutely sure not to kick at all with either foot. I wrapped the foot and used crutches to get down to the beach, crutched down to the water line, then Sean was kind enough to carry the crutches back to our towels as I awkwardly hopped into the water, dodging breaking waves and trying not to get knocked over.

Note: It is really, really difficult to swim without any leg motion because they quickly sink and pull your entire body downward. The only solution I found was to hold my breath as much as possible and use my abs to keep my back slightly arched, pulling my legs up toward the surface. Not ideal swimming form, but at least I can keep my arms in shape. I am thinking that with a flotation device held between my ankles to keep my legs up (and still) I should be able to get a decent workout. Just moving freely in the water felt amazing after a week and a half of heavy, uncomfortable hopping.

Basically, I'm getting adjusted to this new state of being. I know that I will be frustrated with the steps backward in my training, but for now I am just grateful to be able to move around. I can carry my dinner from the kitchen to the table. I can go outside. I can drink my tea while curled up on the couch, reading. I can cook without dropping half the food on the floor, and I can feel weightless as the ocean rocks my body back and forth. I know that when the time comes, I'll be ready to face the challenge of rehab.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Planning a Comeback

It seems that the key to finding a wealth of creative inspiration is breaking the body.

Okay, so that may be a little dramatic, but I have noticed a huge upturn in artistic motivation since my injury just over a week ago. Suddenly I want to write, dance, play my violin, paint... unfortunately for me, I can't dance on one foot, my violin is missing a string, and I can't paint because I have no canvases and no way to get any while stuck in the house. That leaves writing, so here I am. This sudden artistic renaissance may have something to do with the fact that I'm used to running, swimming, biking, or some combination of the two every day and in the absence of activity my energy is being poured into other areas of interest. It may having nothing to do with it. I don't know. Whatever it is, I am thankful for it because otherwise I would be going crazy glued to the couch staring wistfully outside.

The truth is, this is frustrating. I had gotten myself into great shape, I was feeling confident after fulfilling a longstanding goal, I was the strongest I've ever been, and now I am languishing away unable to do any kind of aerobic exercise, watching my hard work evaporate into nothingness before my eyes. My stomach is already softer, my legs more jiggly... ugh. In the hopes of maintaining a positive attitude, here is what I have been thinking about:

Given the worst case scenario within the normal realm of possibility, I will have to be off of my feet for 8 weeks. It hurts to even think it, but that's right: two months. That would bring me to the end of June (Dear God, please no). If I could restart my triathlon training at the beginning of July, it would give me just over 4-1/2 months to get ready for the Lavaman Keauhou, the olympic-length triathlon I am already signed up for. This is about two weeks longer than I had to train for the sprint triathlon that I just completed.

Going from couch to Olympic-length is definitely scary, but when I think back on my previous training, I quickly realize that the first two months basically served as mental training to get me to a point where I could really move forward and improve. For this comeback, I am already there. In addition, I won't have the scare-factors of not knowing how to swim, not knowing how to ride a road bike, or thinking that my body is physically incapable of running longer than twenty minutes. In short, I know that my mental game is already there, as long as I don't let this injury get me discouraged.

So here is where I'm at: I am a fucking warrior. The last four months have taught me that physical discomfort is just a process, one that I can work through with confidence that my strength will get me through. Discomfort is simply a symptom of change, of improvement, and so even though right now it hurts and I feel frustrated, I know that I can power through just like I did in the 35 mile bike ride or the Moanalua trail run and that once I do, I will feel unstoppable. Plenty of people get injured, and plenty of people come out healthy on the other side. If they can do that, then I can come out the other side doing an olympic length triathlon in November.

It's on.